The Miracle Worker

Director: Arthur Penn
Year Released: 1962
Rating: 2.5

Based-on-a-true-story account of blind-deaf-dumb Helen Keller and the attempts made to make her a functioning member of society instead of an object of pity is promising, to be sure, but suffers from periods of never-ending, perfectly-timed theatrical outlandishness which undermine the more gentle, easygoing aspects. There are long stretches in which Keller (Patty Duke, very good) and her teacher (Anne Bancroft, also quite good) literally wrestle around the room, tossing food at each other and grappling for a toy doll which could have certainly been cropped - they turn what could be a somber film into something Chaplinesque. Keller's parents really serve no other function but to move the plot along and add some kind of 'symbolic' substance to the film - representing those in society who would rather give up on problems than put forth an effort to correct them, occasionally turn up to bicker with Bancroft in regards to her aggressive training methods and demand to have their daughter 'healed' or 'fixed' in X number of weeks, or else all bets are off and ol' Annie gets sent home a failure. Of course, when it hits the end, Hollywood steps in, and a frantic, berserk Keller suddenly begins to learn and everyone, collectively, shouts hooray! for a splendid miracle has occurred (hence the title). Yet, if you takes a look at the previous hour and some odd minutes, you realize that such a revelation for the mute girl is but a plot contrivance, designed to leave the viewer with a 'good feeling.' If only the writers and director could have constructed a story in which Keller made gradual progress instead of sudden progress the transition may have been easier to swallow. But formulas are formulas, and by the end our dirty little misbegotten is fluent at ESL. The only formula-breaker out there is Truffaut, who, in the far, far, far superior The Wild Child, gives no easy solutions.